James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.

thoughts + feelings

that may or may not exist

53: The Community of Service

Moving sucks.

Lugging giant pieces of furniture up narrow stairways for hours on end. Finding that pesky corner where that bed frame doesn’t fit around. Coming to terms that you’re going to break at least one light fixture and/or mirror in the process. Bonus points if you’ve done it during colder months when those narrow stairways turn into ice and breaking your neck becomes a new challenge to avoid.

Don’t forget the group text/email/instabookslacktweet that asks for help in exchange for pizza and beer.

“Sorry, I’ve got something going on, but let me know if you need help afterward! :)”

“Eh, it’s a little too far for me, I’ll drop by for a little bit but then I have to go.”

“I don’t like moving. Sorry.”

Luckily I’ve had experiences in my community where these instances have been disproved.

This time last year our entire studio collective of 7 had to leave our original location to another, but add in 5 friends plus the 2 founders for additional help. 14 people cleared out two floors of space in record time. Let’s roll to a few weeks ago, two good friends of mine were able to orchestrate a complete move in a couple hours thanks to not being afraid to ask their entire community of friends/acquaintances/loose connections for help. This led to ~15 people showing up. The entire move (with ice covered everything) was completed in a few hours. Calling on the community for service in exchange for gratitude, well-being, food, and good karma.

My wife is part of an all women’s collective where they mentor young women artists every weekend. One mantra they interact with is the concept of gifts and needs. Gifts are things that one can bring to the table, and needs are things that are desired to help the collective grow and give those gifts. It’s a beautiful feedback loop that allows for confidence and humility, introducing an openness that can help others while looking for help yourself. For example, my gift is writing a letter to you each week, while my need is for you to have a desire to respond, share it with others, and enjoy having a little nugget of prose in your inbox.

Focus, then nurture, then cultivate, then care. That was the formula that led into building a community. To have a group you can reach out to, looks out for each other, and genuinely cares about the well being of everyone…that’s powerful.

So here’s your challenge this week. Find a way to either be a part of a community, or strengthen one that you are already a part of. You can start a newsletter, start a podcast, go to a meetup, or arrange a casual hang out with buds for pizza while inviting a new person into your group. It doesn’t have to be grand, but it has to be genuine. Let me know what you plan to do by hitting reply and I’ll share some responses in next week’s letter, building the community even more.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. I started a bi-weekly podcast with a friend of mine exploring humanity in technology. It’s a mix of storytelling and interviews called Open Ended. You can visit our website, find us on iTunes, or use this link to subscribe in another podcast player (such as Overcast, Pocket Casts, etc.)

What did I find interesting this week?

  1. Use Skype and GarageBand to make a podcast that sounds great: Speaking of podcasts, this guide was an amazing resource on how to make a podcast sound like it’s not a complete amateur endeavor.

  2. Guest Post: Trekking in Tierra del Fuego with Kaitlyn Rose Tierney: Fire up your wanderlust with this beautiful photo essay from Kaitlyn Tierney.

  3. An interview with Jenna Wortham: Getting inside the mind of one of my favorite tech writers, while breaking barriers doing so as a black women.

  4. OneShot, a one week design case study: A very talented friend of mine, Daniel Zarick, helped design an iOS app that shares screenshots of text to your favorite articles. This intensely detailed write up explains his process.

  5. The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More: An inspirational piece about the struggle between being content with your life, and wanting more from yourself.

  6. Life After Cancer: How the iPhone Helped Me Achieve a Healthier Lifestyle: As someone with a pre-existing condition myself, this piece was a great resource for help and made me cry.

James T. Green